Thursday, October 3, 2013

Hip and Shoulder Separation

Bae's Shoulder and Hip Separation
Bae's Shoulder and Hip Separation

Many of my blog posts go over the same information, again and again, in different ways. That's because golf is often based on feels, and everyone learns a different feeling to engrain some fundamental. I write about what I try and what I find useful, primarily so that I can go back and revisit these things from time-to-time. I revisit them because they're the fundamentals that can easily be forgotten or overlooked; a round can suddenly go south because a grip has drifted too weak or too strong, pre-shot alignment is rushed and faulty, an unconsious sway on the backswing, improper weight distribution, etc.

I've posted extensively on the hips' role, the shoulders' role, how to pivot, separation, about lag, creating distance, etc. But I wanted to spend a few more electrons on the subject of separating the hips from the shoulders to generate power. Now, I've examined Jim McClean's X-Factor a few times on here, and you'll find the usual for-and-against golf enthusiasts out there on the interwebs debating that very subject. Reputable instructors will offer up valid logic on why you should or should not resist with your lower body while your shoulders turn on the backswing. Take a stance on just about any "unassailable" fundamental of golf and you will eventually find someone--someone with a low or scratch handicap--who disagrees.

I believe that the so-called "X-Factor" of hip and shoulder separation is far more important in the transition and early downswing at generating power and consistency than using separation in the takeaway and backswing to generate potential power. I believe this because there are examples of long-hitting professionals who turn their hips a lot on the backswing (more than they believe or more than Jim McClean says they should). But on the downswing, their hips ALWAYS start first, before ANYTHING else moves; I haven't seen slow-motion video yet of a single professional golfer who moves the shoulders before the hips (if they did, they would immediately be OTT and NOT hitting inside-out). Their entire pelvis shifts towards the target a few inches (and thus so do both knees, pushing weight into the left leg) and then rotates (the belt buckle turns) towards the target, followed closely and sequentially by the belly, shoulders, arms, hands, the club, and finally the club head. This sequential unwinding "from the ground up" produces the kinematic sequence--the use of the entire body somewhat like a whip to send energy from the ground up and out (inside-out) through the club head and into the ball.

Sticking with the belt buckle swing thought mentioned above, try to start your downswing by first moving the belt buckle over the left (or front) leg WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY rotating the belt buckle towards the target. All of this should happen while the shoulders are still mostly closed and the arms completely passive--almost floating. Another way to think of this--to ensure you're not throwing, casting, or hitting with your arms from the top--is to imagine that you have a golf club extending from your belt buckle and that you're trying to hit the ball using nothing but the belt buckle motion, while your arms come through afterwards with a second club. Your arms are lagging behind your belt buckle. FORGET YOUR ARMS! They will naturally, quickly, and fluidly follow the motion of your lower body. I've found that thinking of hitting the ball with my belt buckle (thus shifting my belt buckle targetward and rotating around at the same time) helps keep the instinct to hit the ball with the arms at bay.

A "from the ground up" downswing, that enables hip motion to separate from shoulder motion, starts in the feet and how the weight is distributed in them--front-to-back--to provide balance. Verified when I recently took a golf lesson from a local PGA teaching pro, I've had a bad habit of sitting back on my heels when taking my stance (setup as part of GASP), and this can absolutely destroy the ability to easily shift the hips forward and rotate and properly. I've had to make sure that my weight is shifted into the balls of my feet (shifted towards my toes but not in my toes); the weight is mostly in the arches, balanced evenly between the heels and toes. One should only be on the heels for a lie below the feet, and only on the toes for a lie above the feet. The correct athletic stance that promotes an easy shift and rotation of the pelvis while the shoulders remain closed feels almost as if one is preparing to dive into a pool or receive a serve in tennis. There are a few teaching professionals (e.g., Chuck Quinton) who, predictably, contradict this fundamental, but most touring professionals, like Tiger Woods and Tom Watson, and teaching professionals, like Shawn Clement and his "suction cup" foot analogy, advocate for the balanced ball-of-the-foot approach, and that seems to work best for me. Chuck's admonition seems related to keeping the left knee healthy (implying this is what caused Tiger's knee woes), but someone like Tom Watson is currently in his 60s and hitting the ball a mile. I think I'll believe Tom Watson and the PGA pro I saw on this one.

At the top, the shoulders should momentarily stay put (stay turned away from the target), while the pelvis (hips) execute the motions described above in the transition to the downswing. The shoulders and arms follow because they physically must do so. No thought should be given to moving the shoulders and arms (and club); simply let the hips start the process and let everything follow and unwind. In a sense (at least in terms of how it should feel), you're making a move to hit the ball with your legs and hips, letting everything else follow! The amount of lag generated by doing this correctly is amazing and the distance and consistency that is achievable by learning to trust this one movement cannot be overstated.

This is useful throughout the bag (except for the putter, where you want a stable lower body). You need to do this in the sand. You need to do this when pitching. You can even do this--albeit very slightly--when chipping. Let the lower body lead and find out how easy this game can be.

For me, this works best with a centralized backswing pivot, where the right shoulder pulls directly back and behind the head; in other words, no swaying. For me, a backswing sway can be so slight and so easily and unintentionally introduced when focusing on the right transition and downswing; it will wreck the benefit of a properly executed downswing sequencing. When you're doing it right--putting both a proper backswing pivot and hip-shoulder separation on the downswing--you'll be fully and naturally posted up on your left leg at the completion of the swing.

Watch your favorite guy on the Tour -- Tiger, Phil, Ernie, Vijay, me, anybody -- and forget about his arms and hands and head when he makes a golf swing. Just focus on his belt buckle.

Then watch another swing, this time trying to focus on your guy's hands in relation to his belt buckle. They're always, always just a little behind through contact.

Let your belly lead your hands - Golf - John Daly - ESPN

Rotating your lower body toward the target helps propel the ball from the sand and assists in maintaining acceleration. Try this for a swing thought: Turn your belt buckle to the target.

Tiger Tips: Belt Buckle To The Target : Golf Digest

The way they sequence that power’s delivery to the ball is the key to maximum efficiency and distance. For an effective kinematic sequence to occur they must start the downswing from the ground up. That is to say that the hips start or fire first, followed by the torso, then the arms and finally the club. If this order is compromised power loss and errant shots will occur.

The more turn you have while keeping the shoulders stable/still the greater your potential for the “X Factor” stretch in the downswing and generating power. If you found it hard to do this test you will find it difficult to sequence correctly in the downswing.

Blackburn Golf | Tips & Articles | Sequencing Successfully!

Conventional wisdom states that the downswing begins from the ground up. A golfer must shift his weight forward and begin rotating his hips before swinging his arms forward. Golf instructor Jimmy Ballard explains that when your weight shifts forward and your hips rotate properly your arms “respond naturally, falling into the correct downswing plane” as they approach the ball.

Slide vs. Turn Golf Downswing

The transition from backswing to downswing is crucial to generating power and accuracy. The key is to start the downswing with the lower body.

In the best swings the lower body starts forward while the upper body is still turning back. The left hip turns toward the target as the shoulders continue to coil. That takes terrific timing and a lot of practice.

Tom Watson: Lead With Your Lower Body : Golf Digest

Rotating through impact can be felt in different ways, such as a pull with the left side, push with the right side, downward push off the right foot, inward kick with the right knee, left hip clearing, etc. There are numerous ways to feel the body’s rotation. It doesn’t matter what your feel is as long as it starts with the lower body. It’s not a passive role by any means. There must be a conscious effort to turn the body all the way until the finish.

A great thought is turning the belt buckle to the target as quickly as possible as you swing through the ball. It targets a key area – the hips – and engages the lower body and creates speed in the unwinding process.

But remember, rotation must be sequenced correctly.The lower body shifts weight first and rotation to the target comes second. You maximize everything you got by following that sequence. Some amateurs do the opposite and rotate too early. This tends to throw the club outside the target line and cause slices and pull hooks.

Tour Players Rotate Through Impact | Scratch Golf School

The best way I can describe the feeling of using the body to hit the ball is, it’s an UNMISTAKABLE feeling that I used my legs and hips. After the shot has been hit, I feel a radiating all the way down my right leg and in my hips whereas, I feel nothing in my hands and arms.

Most amateurs just are not able to get the club in the slot because they rotate their shoulders early from the top of their swing. This, of course, throws the club outside the target line and usually results in a slice, a pull, or even a top.

Jim Suttie: The most important move in golf ... get in the slot

At the top of your backswing, your back should be facing your target if you have completed your shoulder turn correctly. Your back should stay facing your target for just a second as you begin your downswing. This will allow the golf club to swing down properly on the correct swing path as you approach the golf ball at impact.

Starting the downswing by opening up the upper body too early will lead to an over the top swing as well as an out to in swing path. This can lead to either a slices or pulled golf shots. At impact, the shoulders should be square to your target line so it's important that they don't open up too early from the start of the downswing.

Perfect Your Golf Downswing Transition

Keep your back facing the target at the start of the downswing.

What this 'feel' will do is keep your club to the inside on the downswing. If you open your shoulders real quick, and NOT have your back face the target, this will throw your club to the outside, and lead to an over the top swing, and hence a bad golf shot. This is a problem slicers are notorious for having.

So when you reach the top of your swing, do this:

Feel that your hips bump slightly laterally, then begin to turn out of the way.
The key is to keep your back facing the target for a split second longer as you make this initial move with your hips. You should feel that your back resists against your lower body. Your upper body stays still, your lower body begins firing, your golf club is automatically dropped into the slot, your golf ball goes straight and far!
Golf Tips - Fixing your Slice - Keeping Your Back to Target
A quick look back at Hogan’s original quote in this essay tells us that “...under no conditions should the downswing be inaugurated by the hands.” I agree wholeheartedly. It is folly. Watson agrees as well:
A lot of fairly good players try to start everything down together: feet, hips, arms, shoulders. I made the mistake of trying to do that myself for several years with no great success. If you start everything down together, there is a strong tendency to throw the clubhead at the ball with the right hand too soon, dissipating your power and not helping your accuracy, either. I converted to starting down with the lower body and became both longer and straighter.”
Secrets In The Dirt
Do you[r] best to keep your back facing the target for longer and you will set up the ideal DOWN swing sequence that will move the golf club on a path that travels outwards through the ball rather than across the ball. You can do this by controlling your armswing and shoulders consciously and deliberately or by using your lower body in such a way that the result is that the shoulders are delayed.
May, 2012 | Golf Confidence Academy
Professional golfers transition to the downswing by moving their lower bodies. In every great golf swing the legs and hips move first. The torso follows the hips; the shoulders follow the torso; the arms follow the shoulders; the hands follow the arms; and the club follows the hands. That’s the order of the downswing. : The sequence is from the ground up. The lower and upper body have to be synchronized. Strong hips and stabilizers create strong downswing.
Cindy Reid Golf
Just like that basketball player, you want to be on the balls of your feet -- not the heels, not the toes. That's the key to balance. No good athletes in any sport play with their weight back on their heels. It's important that you start with your weight on the balls of your feet and keep it there through impact. You can easily check your set-up position in a full-length mirror.
Tom Watson: To Set Up Right Get On Defense : Golf Digest
If you swing your belly button back and through you are activating and/or energizing many of the muscles that Mike Austin wanted you to utilize in the swing, including the internal and external obliques, the transverse abdominis, the glutes and the sartorius, just to name a few. The good news is that you don’t have to think about those muscles, if you don’t want to. Just swing that belly button. The further and faster you move it (albeit smoothly) the further that ball will go.
The Belly Button | Mentored By The Legend – Mike Austin


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